In a perfect world, everyone would have a perfect manicure—or healthy natural nails. However, this isn’t always the case in actuality. Instead, there are many common nail problems and injuries that can harm the nails, cuticles, or nail bed, or even indicate a more severe issue elsewhere in the body.
Like most health issues, knowing the signs of these conditions is the first step in preventing, catching, and treating them, should they appear despite your best efforts. These common issues can be prevented or their symptoms eased with the proper care, so long as you know what you’re dealing with.
Onycholysis, or the separation of the nail from the nail bed, is typically a painless problem. Many cases come, quite simply, from long fingernails, but it may also be the result of skin disease, infection, or injury. More often than not, though, onycholysis is caused by local irritation, such as chemical overexposure, an allergic reaction, or overenthusiastic or excessive use of a nail buffer or file. For the most part, you’ll be able to avoid this issue by choosing high-quality nail buffer kits, booking your appointments with licensed technicians in qualified salons, and avoiding injury to the nail and nail bed.
Splinter hemorrhages are the small blood spots that occur when capillaries, or blood vessels, along the nail bed are damaged. Often, these are caused by an injury or other trauma and aren’t cause for alarm. In other instances, though, a splinter hemorrhage or hemorrhages may appear for no apparent reason. This could be a sign of a fungal infection, an accumulation of cholesterol, or conditions like vasculitis, diabetes, Raynaud’s disease, or bacterial endocarditis. If you notice unexplained hemorrhages, particularly in addition to other symptoms, be sure to talk to your doctor to rule out these illnesses.
Beyond splinter hemorrhages or the white areas that result from onycholysis, other sorts of discoloration can affect the nails, turning them white, yellow, or even green. Other conditions may appear to tinge the nail, changing the colors of the skin around and beneath it. In a vast majority of cases, this is due to an infection, such as trichophyton rubrum or pseudomonas. In some instances, discoloration could be caused by more serious conditions, including anemia and liver, heart, or kidney diseases, so be sure to keep an eye on any new symptoms and consult a health care provider with any concerns.
Biting or Picking
In most instances, biting or picking at your nails won’t inhibit otherwise healthy nail growth. However, this does not mean that these habits or disorders don’t come with other risks. For instance, you may damage the skin around the nail, increase your risk of infection and contact with germs, or even harm your teeth in the process. Nail-biting or picking can be a sign of stress, anxiety, or various mental health conditions; if you suspect this may be behind your bad habit, schedule an appointment with a doctor or mental health provider to identify and treat any such issues.
The various conditions and injuries that commonly affect fingernails aren’t just there to steal your fresh manicure’s thunder. On the contrary, these can be signs of serious health issues throughout the body or even lead to problems as a result. By taking proper care of your nails, using the proper tools for nail care, and avoiding biting or picking at your nails (among other bad habits), you’ll be less likely to face many of these issues. But, if such a condition thwarts your personal care efforts, your doctor can help treat the issue and offer further preventive measures, if necessary.